Where Have I Been? Life Update

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The last time you heard from me was late January. It’s now mid-April, and a lot has changed. I’m excited to get back to blogging on a regular basis, and to document this new life I’m leading. I was nervous to go all-in. Now, I’m just really excited.

For those of you who don’t know, April 9, 2019 was my last day as a health and wellness reporter for Elite Daily. I’ll admit, I wasn’t ready for my time at Elite to end just yet. I had been toying with the idea of going full-time freelance for some time; I would eventually make the transition, I just didn’t know when I’d commit to making that leap. Evidently, the universe did.

I am a firm believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason. Despite that fun fact though, when I got the call from HR that the health and wellness vertical was being shut down, and that, in a few weeks, my position would no longer be available, I was crushed. I’d never been laid off before, and even though I knew this kind of thing happens a lot in my industry, especially lately, I guess it’s true what they say about that “it’ll never happen to me,” mentality: We all have it, until it does happen to us. I cried for a day, talked it through for hours with Mark, and woke up the next morning with a fresh perspective (and a massive headache).

Flash forward to just over one month later, and my first week leading that full-time freelance life is coming to a close. Obviously it’s still early, but I’m loving the fact that, now, I’m not on anyone else’s schedule. I don’t have to write articles that don’t interest me. I can write for more than one outlet. I have time to pursue my next dream. The dream. The dream I’ve dreamt since I was 10 years old: To be a novelist.

In the months leading up to my leaving Elite Daily, I’d honestly felt stuck. Something was missing. I didn’t feel fulfilled. Which, by the way, I know isn’t always possible. Work isn’t necessarily meant to be fun all the time, and I’m not naive to that truth. However, I knew I wanted something a little different, and every conversation I had with Mark about this itching feeling came back to creative writing.

Up until mid-January, it had been six years since I’d written anything creative. I hadn’t even attempted to write a single poem in that time frame, let alone an entire manuscript. What’s even more jarring is that before writing my thriller novella junior year of college, I hadn’t written a story longer than a few pages since sophomore year of high school. What can I say? I guess inspiration strikes once every six years for me (I’m kidding, I hope).


When Mark came home from work the day I got laid off, we sat on our bed, talked things through, and he said something that changed my entire perspective. It was something along the lines of “You wanted to write articles for publications. You did that (and still are doing that). Maybe now is the time to pursue another dream. The dream of being a novelist.” (If you haven’t noticed, Mark is really good at saying the right thing, but the best part is, he’s 100% sincere every time.)

So that’s where I’ve been, and that’s what I’m now pursuing. Currently, I’m a freelance writer for Shape.com, MindBodyGreen, Eat This, Not That!, and INSIDER, with the flexibility of taking on new opportunities if they suit my lifestyle and interests. It’s taken me a while to build my reputation in this industry, and to know exactly what I’m worth feels amazing. It also feels amazing to set my own hours, and, while I’m working, be able to set aside a piece of content if I’m feeling blocked, and put in a load of laundry or wash dishes. I love being a wife and taking care of my husband and home, and the more time I’m allotted to do that, the better. To be honest, I was a little nervous to make this transition because I was afraid what people would think of me. The format of my job is untraditional, but it’s also pretty incredible and I love feeling like my time is mine now. I can do with it what I please.

My novel is my passion project, and I’m determined to finish my manuscript by the time we’re all ringing in the year 2020. So far, I’ve (hand)written over 100 pages, but have recently decided to go back to the drawing board and reconstruct some things. I’ve been dedicating these last few days to outline, and have 18 chapters planned out. It’s intimidating, and scary, because I am so passionate about writing, and becoming a published novelist. It’s what I’ve always wanted to pursue; now that I actually am, it’s a little daunting. But I have a great support system in my husband, my parents, family, and friends.

When I first launched Always, Julia Rose, I had intended for this platform to be yet another health and wellness blog to add to the pile. Health, wellness, food, and fitness are still topics I’m interested in (your girl loves a good sweat and loves a good donut even more), but I’m starting to revert back to my roots — reading and writing. So from here on out, the content of this blog is probably going to be centered around writing updates, maybe some book reviews of what I’m reading (mostly to keep me accountable, and it’s a great way for me to learn new tactics for my own writing), and some wellness content sprinkled into the mix. I’ll also be resuming my Sunday Surveys because, well, I just like answering questions.

Hopefully you’re still with me. I know that was a lot of writing and a few major points to catch up on. I’ll leave you with a quote that I believe sums up where I’m at in life right now:

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” - Stephen King

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Chocolate Mint Oatmeal Smoothie Bowl (Ft. Charlotte's Web CBD Hemp Oil)

I've been experimenting with CBD for months, and I'm so excited to be sharing with you this delicious smoothie bowl recipe that tastes like an oatmeal mint chocolate chip cookie, and starts your morning off on a super chill note.

First things first, though, CBD is not the same thing as weed. Some of you might have just stifle a chuckle, or smirked at that statement, but I know a lot of people are confused about what, exactly, CBD oil actually is. According to Healthline, CBD Oil is “one of 104 chemical compounds” found in the marijuana plant, Cannabis Sativa. Unlike the compound Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, CBD oil is not psychoactive. In other words, CBD oil will not get you high.

It will, however, calm your nerves and ease any physical pain you might be struggling with. As someone who personally struggles with anxiety, I was excited to try the supplement for myself when the Stanley Brothers’ Charlotte’s Web approached me to test their product. At first, I was hesitant, but after doing extensive research on the subject of CBD Oil, I decided to add one dropper of the CW Chocolate Mint CBD Hemp Oil to a smoothie. Overtime, I’ve upped my dosage to two droppers per use, and I definitely see a difference in my attitude before and after consumption.

Before diving into the recipe, please take into consideration that I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician. If you think you’d like to experiment with CBD, do your research and talk to your doctor to see if the supplement is right for you. And with that, let’s get into the recipe:

What You’ll Need:

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup of non-dairy milk

3 Ice Cubes (add more to thicken)

1 to 2 Droppers of CW Chocolate Mint CBD Hemp Oil

1 scoop of protein powder (I used Moon Juice’s Adaptogenic Vanilla Protein Powder)

1 scoop of Nutiva MCT Oil Powder (optional)

Directions:

1. Compile all the ingredients into a blender

2. Blend until you’ve reached optimal consistency (aka creamy)

3. Top with the works : I added DANG foods chocolate coconut chips, hemp seeds, and a dollop of Crazy Richard’s Creamy Peanut Butter

4. Take a photo

5. Tag me on instagram @juliee_girl

6. Stick a spoon in it; you’re done!

 

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Sarah's Day Sweat It To Shred It Review

Eight weeks: Eight weeks of sweat, eight weeks of strength, eight weeks of growth. I went into the Sarah’s Day Sweat It To Shred It program with very little motivation to stick to anything for more than one week tops, taking days that turned into weeks off at a time. At the end of May, I considered my relationship status with my body to be “complicated” because even though I was in a relatively good place, I knew there was still a lot of room to grow and mature. Now, eight weeks (give or take) later, and I’ve come out the other side. So, how’d I do?

The day I committed to this program, I was pumped. I’d been waiting for Sarah to put her program on sale ever since she launched it. It retails for 69.99 Australian dollars, which translates to about 51 U.S. dollars. Now, the first time I purchased a workout program, I paid about 40 U.S. dollars, but now that same program has gone up in price by almost 20 U.S. dollars. So I guess that’s what complete programs are going for these days, but I still couldn’t justify shelling out that much cash for something that really hadn’t been tried yet, so I waited until it was 20 percent off, bit the bullet, and collected my digital copy. Was it worth it?

I’ve been watching Sarah’s Day on YouTube for years, so when she announced that she was publishing her first ebook, I had high expectations that were absolutely met. These workouts are styled to push your body to its highest potential, with nothing but body weight to work with. As someone who’s fitness journey began with weight training, I wasn’t sure I could take it. I’d tried tabata exercises in the past, and it took a long time for me to make peace with cardio, so the idea of pushing my dumbbells aside to jump and lunge around my apartment sounded interesting, to say the least. I wouldn’t say I was necessarily skeptical over whether or not these circuits would work — one look at Sarah’s physique and you know she’s doing something right — I just wasn’t positive this type of training would be something I actually wanted to stick with.

Well, I stuck with it.

Out of respect for the hard work Sarah put into her eBook, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the workouts, or show specific pages of the program. What I will tell you, though, is that I always reviewed the workouts before starting them so I knew what to expect; I was familiar with most of the movements, but if I wasn’t, I simply plugged them into YouTube or Google for a tutorial. I definitely don’t think something like that should deter you from purchasing the program, though; going into any new workout regimen, there’s bound to be some exercises you aren’t familiar with, but that’s how you learn. Plus, challenging your body is one of the best ways to see results.

Speaking of results, I chose not to take before and after photos. The reason why being that I’m still pretty sensitive when it comes to my body image, and while  I’ve definitely made great progress over the past few years, I wanted this program to be about feeling stronger, and feeling good, instead of aesthetics. I definitely felt leaner around my upper torso, I noticed my arms and legs were more defined than they had been before I joined Sezzy’s Squad, but what was honestly more rewarding than that was how, by week eight, I was pushing through more than 10 push ups in 60 seconds.

The entire program used only bodyweight, and I’d never felt more capable of getting through those kinds of HIIT and Tabata workouts without collapsing. Each week is a progression, with different variations of exercises, and halfway through your schedule intensifies: Weeks 1-3 you’re working out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Week 4 you add in a Tuesday workout, and weeks 6-8 you’re working out, ideally, Monday through Saturday. And, honestly, there were a few workouts I’d missed, but that’s 100 percent on me.

This is the type of program in that you really get out of it what you put into it. Overall, I'd rate my performance between a B+ or A-.

 

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Pre-Sarah's Day Sweat It To Shred It Questionnaire

Ever since my perfect wedding day came and went on April 7, 2017, and Mark and I touched back home after nine incredible days in paradise (otherwise known as Maui, Hawaii), I’ve been struggling to get back in the fitness game. If you follow my efforts on Elite Daily, you probably know I’ve tried a lot of different programs this year based on what sort of moves celebrities swear by, and that has definitely kept my body moving — challenged, even — but aside from the experiments I’ve been assigned, my motivation to be anywhere near as active as I was when the goal was to #sweatforthedress, has plummeted.

Honestly, part of the reason I’ve fallen off the bandwagon is because I work from home now. When I was commuting to and from Manhattan five days a week, I opted to walk 50 blocks a day instead of paying an extra $150 on top of the $400 I was already shelling out to public transportation every month. Subconsciously, I was training my body for athleticism first thing each morning, and again once my nine to five shift came and went. These days, my commute is from the bedroom to the kitchen table, so there I go, erasing a massive chunk of cardio that played a significant role in the chiseling of my physique for two years.

Without that stretch of sidewalk from Penn Station to the Hearst Tower forcing me to get my blood moving at least twice a day, the only thing I really had to rely on was self-motivation, which, for some reason, was severely lacking. Which, by the way, isn’t like me at all. Before, I’d dedicated a combination of at least three to four gym sessions on top of my daily cardio. These days, it can be really difficult to push myself out of bed before 7:45 a.m., which is usually about the time I make a cup of tea, brush my teeth, get dressed, and make breakfast before sitting down to work my seven-hour shift. So what happened?

I can only speak for myself, but being home, instead of waking up early to head into the office, is so incredibly comfortable. At least when I was getting out of the house everyday for work, I already had that motivation to keep going: to get up, walk, work, walk some more, get home, change, and head to the gym. It was a constant flow of stamina. Now when I finish work, I’m already feet away from my couch.

The easy thing to do would be to crawl into the corner of our sectional and watch hours of T.V. until bed. Of course there have been days like this, but there have been plenty of others where I’ve dedicated time to my yoga practice, to weight lifting, to trying new programs, revisiting old programs. Then one of my favorite YouTube vloggers, Sarah’s Day, released her 8-week Sweat It To Shred It workout routine, and I was ready to get back into it.

Sweat It To Shred It is unlike any program I’ve tried before because it’s focused on body weight, and body weight alone. I became passionate about weight lifting from the get-go when I joined Planet Fitness back in 2013 and started following Ben Williamson’s Crush 60. I lost 15 pounds all through weight lifting and light cardio; I thought bodyweight training would bore me. But Sarah has uploaded a few of her at-home workouts to Youtube before, and giving them a try, I realized body weight would actually challenge me in a way dumbbells and barbells never could. So I made the big purchase (it wasn’t cheap - $42 on sale, originally about $65), and made the commitment. But before I start, I was prompted to answer a few questions about how I currently felt towards my body, my fitness journey, and the goals I was looking to achieve.

To kick off the fitness section of my blog, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to answer Sarah’s questions and document my progress throughout the eight weeks. I’ll check in at the halfway point, and once more when I’ve finished the entire program.

How do I feel about my current fitness level?

My current fitness level is decent. I know I’m strong, and I can be a fast runner when I want to be. I also recognize, though, that I have fallen off the bandwagon/ My fitness level is not nearly what it was just one year ago. Last June, my torso was leaner, my arms, back, and leg muscles were much more defined. And now, not only can I feel a difference, I see a physical one. I miss that amazing confidence, and the strength.

How do I feel about my body?

My relationship with my body is one gigantic rollercoaster, polished off with all the bells and whistles - flips, escalations, stomach-wrenching drops, and backwards motions. There’s highs and lows, but that’s always how it’s been really. This year, though, I went from feeling fit and slim to semi-fit, still small, but some days I feel more lean than others, and the confidence comes and goes. I make it sound romantic, but that’s really not my intention. It just is what it is.

Unlike when I was in the thick of my eating disorder, I can honestly say I don’t hate my body. I don’t hate the way I look, but I know I want to improve.

What are my fitness/body goals for the next 4 weeks?

My fitness goals for the next 4 weeks are to (hopefully) fall back in love with the process again. I want to show up, and give my all to every workout I do, work hard, sweat harder, and to feel proud of myself for making the effort.

What do I love about my body?

What an interesting question, seeing as how the relationship status between me and my body has just gone from it’s complicated to in a relationship at all. It’s like, I’m in that awkward, yet fun stage of getting to know my body and all its quirks and appreciating them for what they are instead of tantalizing them.

What do I love about my body? Love is a strong word, but if I really think hard, I guess I would say that I love my eyes and smile. I love my thighs and decolletage. I love my body’s abilities. I love the fact that when I’m sick, it can heal, and that when I challenge it, my muscles rise up to the occasion. I love it’s potential. I love my potential.

Let’s see what I’ve got.

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Check In: Halfway Through Sweat It To Shred It

How do I feel about my current fitness level?

I can definitely feel myself getting stronger as I continue on through this program. Generally speaking, I’m pretty familiar with every move Sarah’s included in her circuits thus far, and that makes me feel confident in my capabilities because I’m familiar with the correct form. Combining all of these moves into a 30 minute circuit, however, is the challenge. I will say though, despite my becoming familiar with the moves, I’m still drenched with sweat after every session. So even though I feel myself getting stronger, I don’t feel like the program is becoming any less of a challenge.

How do I feel about my body?

I wish I could report four weeks into the program and I feel better than ever about my body, but I’m not totally there yet. I do feel a lot better, though, and I’ll absolutely count that as progress. Personally, I’ve noticed a visible difference in my legs and I’m even starting to believe I’ve formed a booty ever so slightly.

I’ve felt smaller around the torso - which actually doesn’t surprise me. I seem to lose inches there pretty easily, it’s my lower abdominals that take much longer to tone. On the Fourth of July, my sister in law and I were out by the pool taking photos in our ever-so patriotic bikinis when she commented on my abs. I was thrilled. It’s not always easy to see your own progress, but it’s a wonderful confidence-boost when someone else does.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my body in this moment. I can feel it getting stronger by the week, and I’m also forming a new relationship with it as well. By pushing it to the limit, I’m getting to know it better.

What are my fitness/body goals for the next 4 weeks?

My fitness goals for the second half of this program are to continue listening to my body, and appreciating its strength and ability to push forward. I think both of these things will also help me treat my body with more kindness and respect.

What do I love about my body?

I love that my body is always changing - which is ironic, considering that’s usually the basis for why I get so aggravated with it. I think lately I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I’m in my late twenties, my body is preparing itself to be ready for whenever Mark and I decide to have babies, and it’s going through very natural, very womanly changes. I’ve noticed a little more curve in my hips and booty, and even though I would ideally like to flatten out that area, I love that I know my body is healthy and ready whenever I am to nurture a child.

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Honoring Your Period: A Letter From Me, To You (& Your Uterus, Too)

Ever since I stopped taking hormonal birth control in October of 2017, my cycle has never been the same — for better, and for worse. Popping pills or not, though, menstruation takes a toll on the female body. The problem is, whether your monthly visitor is always on time, never on time, a mental strain, or physical challenge, there's still a strong stimga surrounding this level of girl talk. Which is why I'm here. 

When I was 13, my best friend at the time created an Xanga account for me. That would become the beginning of a 13-year-era of Julia, The Girl Who Cried Blogger. I signed up for all kinds of outlets once Xanga faded out, from Live Journal to Blogger and, eventually, Tumblr. I had a lot to say, but it still wasn't enough — at least, not enough to focus on topics I was actually knowledegable of or cared enough about. I tried uploading fashion posts, journal entries, quote collages, and it wasn't even that I was feigning interest in any of theses topics, either. I still love clothes, keep a journal, and quote my favorite authors. Still, I knew in order to keep up with a blog, I'd have to find my niche.

Always, Julia Rose is my lifestyle blog, and a huge part of my life is my period. Granted, I completely understand that not everyone is as comfortable talking about their period as I am. Once upon a time, I wasn't either. Aside from girlfriends and family members, I was very much under the impression that my period was something to be discrete about. Of course, your period is personal, and if you feel that part of you is something you'd prefer to keep private, I absolutely respect that. But if the only reason you don't talk about your period is because someone or something led you to believe it's in anyway improper, I want to hear from you! 

The first time my editor assigned me an article about menstruation, my initial reaction was hesitation. I often put myslf into the stories I write, but I'd never written about periods. My sex life, yes, but never my period. Nervous as I was about how my family and friends would react if I included an anecdote, I decided to take a stab at it and have since learned to be pretty open on the subject. After almost one and a half years of reporting on this material, women's health, especially hormones and menstruation, has become one of my favorites. I've also learned so much from my coverage - details I can assure you teachers gloss over in health class.

And so, I introduce to you a 'A Place for PMS,' a series I'd love to start on this blog that further explores my own period, general symptoms, remedies, and offer you expert-insight on topics you've probably never talked to your gynecologist about (or maybe you have, and if so, I'd love to hear all about it!). One day, I'd like this to be a safe place to talk about what's goijg on internally, hormonally, and help one another make the most out of our cycles. 

If you have any questions, or would like me to write on a specific subject, feel free to email me: julia@alwaysjuliarose.com 

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry Smoothie Bowl

I'm convinced there's nothing better than chocolate. Like, nothing. I can remember, back in preschool, one of my classmates had a huge crush on me (can't really say I blame him - I was adorable way back when) and tried his very hardest to woo me with costume jewelry. Well, long story short, I wasn't having it, and because I wasn't having it, his mom expressed to my mom that she didn't appreciate my disinterest in her son (translation: she was bitter about having to buy me little trinkets I wasn't accepting). My mother's response was simple: Buy her a Hershey's chocolate bar and she'll be his best friend. I never did get that chocolate bar…

You laugh, but that's a true story. And these days, I find any excuse I can to incorporate chocolate into meals and snacks because chocolate shouldn't always be saved for dessert. Ergo, when I learned about cacao - the purest form of chocolate you can consume, not to mention among the healthiest - I was spooning the stuff into smoothies and mixing it into bowls of oatmeal every day. Dozens of cacao combinations later and my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Smoothie Bowl was born.

See, my number one goal in life is to own a smoothie bowl franchise. I'm just kidding, it's not, but I do genuinely love mix and matching all kinds of frozen fruits, healthy fats, and non-dairy milks to create delicious treats I can devour for breakfast, lunch, even *gasp* dinner. One morning I was in the midst of pouring frozen strawberries into my Ninja cup and thought about how my the ingredients that made up my most recent go-to smoothie, when portioned out precisely right, could taste exactly like a chocolate covered strawberry. Naturally,  I had to perfect the recipe to share with all of you because, come on, who doesn't love chocolate covered strawberries? Or, better yet, who doesn't want to eat chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast with the added bonus of the bowl being loaded with good-for-you additives?

And so I became a scientist in the kitchen. Seriously, it was no small feat figuring out the perfect ratio of frozen banana pieces to strawberry chunks. Then I had to worry about overdoing the chocolate flavor. I know, I know, there's really no such thing as too much chocolate, but I was going for more of a berry-meets-cocoa flavor, rather than the equivalent of drowning the berries under a fondue fountain. With a little trial, and a lot of error, I finally found the perfect balance.

What You'll Need: 

3/4 of 1 frozen banana

1 cup of frozen strawberries

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

1 (generous) scoop of raw cacao

1/2 cup of non-dairy milk

1 scoop of Moon Juice maca powder (optional)

1/2 scoop of Nutiva's MCT Powder (optional)

1/2 scoop of Navitas Organics Superfood (optional)

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